The saying, “What you can’t see can’t hurt you,” may work in some situations, but it just does not apply when it comes to plant maintenance. What you cannot see not only can hurt you, it can hurt your budget, your scheduling, your productivity and sometimes even your personnel.

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Variations in temperature are colorful and also useful in rooting out problems such as the equipment-fuse problems shown here.

Things you cannot see can cause everything from small intermittent problems that slow a process and impact quality to major events that can take down an entire operation. In reality, each day holds unknown production risks. Perhaps you go to work thinking, “What will break today, and how big of a hassle will it be?”

This photo essay gives you a window into an alternate reality - one in which you actually can see a problem before it can hurt you. The tool that enables this? A thermal imager, also called an infrared camera. Differences in temperature as seen on a thermal imager immediately can identify a looming issue. You just have to know what to look for.

See how a thermal imager does its job day in and day out so you can get through each day with far fewer worries.

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This uneven thermal profile highlights improperly operating heating coils in a paper mill. The obvious heat variation means that the operators will have to scrap at least that particular entire roll of paper

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A coupling alignment issue causes abnormal heating on both the motor side and the load side. If you look really closely, the infrared image even picks up the wobble in the coupling.

 

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Sometimes problems lurk high up where they are hard to detect. In this case, the thermal imager shows a sticky roller bearing that has heated up, creating drag on the conveyor belt and added load on the conveyor motors

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Color differences between the same components that are all turned on and doing the same job are a sure indicator of trouble. Because two of these three compressors look the same, it is a good bet that the problem lies with the third compressor (in the back).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Signs of refractory breakdown in a cement kiln (furnace) could mean that a catastrophic problem is brewing for this plant.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

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The air-circulation fan motor in the front of this annealing furnace appears to be overheating. If it goes out unexpectedly, the entire operation would go down, perhaps for as long as two weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hot water (indicated by the color red in this IRFusion color alarm-enabled image) is supposed to be going up the center pipe, but there appears to be a faulty valve, which will require a shutdown of the system to replace.